The Church of England is set to publish guidelines Monday, advising that gay clergy involved in civil partnerships should be entitled to become bishops on the proviso that they remain celibate.
It is rumored that the document will tell church leaders it is wrong to discriminate against gay clergy when appointing bishops, as long as a declaration is made that they are not in an active sexual relationship.
The guidelines will be sent to members of the church's governing body, the synod, in advance of its meeting in York next month.
Bishops so far have failed to reach an agreement on precisely what stance the church should take to comply with new British equality legislation.
According to The Sunday Telegraph newspaper in England, the guidelines will say the Crown Nominations Commission, the body which recommends the appointment of bishops by the prime minister, can not bar gays from becoming enthroned as bishops.
The spiritual head of the Church of England, Dr. Rowan Williams, who has been heavily criticized for an unclear stance on gay clergy, has previously indicated that he had “no problem” with gay bishops as long as they were celibate.
The Daily Telegraph reports that the document will state: “There is no statement of the position of the Church of England that declares that a celibate person in a civil partnership cannot be considered for appointment as a bishop.”
“A person’s sexual orientation is, in itself, irrelevant to their suitability for episcopal office or indeed ordained ministry more generally.
“It would, therefore, be wrong if, during a CNC or a selection process for a suffragan see, account were taken of the fact that a candidate had identified himself as of gay sexual orientation.”
The document will also advise that consideration should be given to whether candidates had “always complied with the church’s teaching on same-sex sexual activity” or “whether he had expressed repentance for any previous same-sex sexual activity.”
The Church of England General Synod will be held in July.